The Steelers 2019 season took a huge hit when starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was lost for the season with an elbow injury in the first half of the team’s Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
But second-year backup Mason Rudolph inspired some optimism with a solid second half and the mid-week acquisition of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick fueled it even further.
The defense, lifted by the presence of Fitzpatrick, forced five turnovers while holding San Francisco at bay for much of the afternoon on Sunday.
The offense still seems to be a work in progress as the Steelers gained just 241 yards of total offense in a 24-20 defeated at Levi’s Stadium.
The bizarre first half saw the Steelers force four turnovers, but score just six points off them on a pair of Chris Boswell field goals.
After the offense finally got going in the second half, and Rudolph found JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson for touchdowns, the defense came up with turnover No. 5 after a botched San Francisco snap.
With the Steelers up three, it was a huge opportunity to run some clock, if not extend the lead, but James Conner fumbled the ball right back to the 49ers, setting up Jimmy Garoppolo in good field position.
San Francisco took advantage, with Garoppolo hitting Dante Pettis for a touchdown with 1:15 to play to put the 49ers back on top.
Pittsburgh’s final drive went four plays and lost two yards before turning the ball over on downs.
The 0-3 Steelers will return home to face the Cincinnati Bengals next week.